The Banana Wars: United States Intervention in the Caribbean, 1898-1934

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Rowman & Littlefield, 2002 - History - 265 pages
The Banana Wars: United States Intervention in the Caribbean, 1898–1934 offers a sweeping panorama of America's tropical empire in the age spanned by the two Roosevelts and a detailed narrative of U.S. military intervention in the Caribbean and Mexico. In this new edition, Professor Langley provides an updated introduction, placing the scholarship in current historical context.

From the perspective of the Americans involved, the empire carved out by the banana warriors was a domain of bickering Latin American politicians, warring tropical countries, and lawless societies that the American military had been dispatched to police and tutor. Beginning with the Cuban experience, Langley examines the motives and consequences of two military occupations and the impact of those interventions on a professedly antimilitaristic American government and on its colonial agents in the Caribbean, the American military. The result of the Cuban experience, Langley argues, was reinforcement of the view that the American people did not readily accept prolonged military occupation of Caribbean countries.

In Nicaragua and Mexico, from 1909 to 1915, where economic and diplomatic pressures failed to bring the results desired in Washington, the American military became the political arbiters; in Hispaniola, bluejackets and marines took on the task of civilizing the tropics. In the late 1920s, with an imperial force largely of marines, the American military waged its last banana war in Nicaragua against a guerrilla leader named Augusto C. Sandino.

Langley not only narrates the history of America's tropical empire, but fleshes out the personalities of this imperial era, including Leonard Wood and Fred Funston, U.S. Army, who left their mark on Cuba and Vera Cruz; William F. Fullam and William Banks Caperton, U.S. Navy, who carried out their missions imbued with old-school beliefs about their role as policemen in disorderly places; Smedley Butler and L.W.T. Waller, Sr., U.S.M.C., who left the most lasting imprint of A

 

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The Banana Wars chronicles American involvement in Latin America starting in Cuba (1898) and finishing in Nicaragua (1934). The book is broken down into four logical, equal length and chronological parts: The Cuban Experience; Teach them to Elect Good Men; Civilizing the Tropics; and The Last Banana War. The text details local history and regional politics allowing the reader to discern the motives for United States intervention. Although not focused on the combat operations during interventions, the individual players are discussed ensuring the reader comes away with a keen understanding of the personalities involved.
In the first section, the Cuban Experience, the author posits that America came first to Cuba as an, “invader of Spanish domain,” however remained as, “an army of occupation.” Although stating it had no intention of annexation, America exercised a lot of control over Cuba. Following the Spanish surrender the U.S. formed a “Division of Cuba” giving the occupation a Southern Reconstruction feel. Due to its proximity to the United States, Cuba needed a political, not a military solution and with troops occupying Cuba, the political solution was the Platt Amendment. Curtailing their sovereignty the Platt Amendment was not well received by Cubans. U.S. troops remained until 1902 when the Cubans made the Platt Amendment part of their fundamental law. In 1906 after losing faith that the recent presidential election was free and fair Cuban Liberals began an insurgency. The U.S. agreed that the 1905 election was fraudulent, however the insurgency caused another U.S. intervention.. The author saw the intervention as means to protect private property from civil disturbance. The chapter also discusses German ambitions and President Roosevelt’s use of force throughout the Caribbean.
The author titles his second section, “Teach them to Elect Good Men,” and covers the first Nicaraguan war and American intervention in Mexico. A rebellion broke out in Nicaragua and the Marines went in to protect American interests. The intervention created a safe haven for the rebels. The Nicaraguan leadership changed rapidly and finally settled on a president friendly to the United States. The Nicaraguan Sectary of War was not friendly to the United States and started another civil war. The Marines put down the insurrection, left a legation guard of 100 Marines, and sailed away. There would be “peace” in Nicaragua for 15 years. At the same time a civil war was brewing in Mexico and the U.S. feared German intervention close to American soil. Tensions were high between the United States and Mexico. The arrest of an American military member, followed by a perceived political slight to the United States pushed relations to a breaking point. A steamer carrying 250 machine guns and 15 million rounds of ammunition bound for Veracruz forced President Wilson to order a landing of Marines and sailors. Stopping the steamer started the intervention in Mexico. The fighting was quick, with seventeen Americans killed in action securing Veracruz and the intervention was short lasting seven months. America did not find a Mexican “willing to play the role of lackey.”
The third section focuses on intervention in Hispaniola. Military campaigns against the Cacos and political dangers posed by the Haitian aristocracy are highlighted. The Dominican Republic was different from Haiti. When a civil war erupted in the Dominican Republic American forces were standing at the ready. General Arias, the Dominican Secretary of War, took control of the Army and the President resigned. The Marines and Navy landed, occupied the capital, and drove Arias out. The Dominican legislature engaged in unsuccessful negotiations with the Americans in an effort to get them to, “retire to their ships.” The fight in Hispaniola became a protracted guerrilla war and the Marine Corps had little choice but to run Haiti and the Dominican Republic “according to Marine Corps methods.” These methods led to
 

Contents

LEONARD WOOD AND THE WHITE MANS BURDEN
3
TR AND THE USE OF FORCE
13
THE SECOND CUBAN INTERVENTION 1906
27
CUBA OCCUPIED
37
TEACH THEM TO ELECT GOOD MEN
47
THE NICARAGUAN MENACE
49
THE NICARAGUAN WAR 19101912
59
THE MEXICAN CRISIS
71
THE PACIFICATION OF HISPANIOLA 1
127
THE PACIFICATION OF HISPANIOLA 2
143
THE LAST BANANA WAR
159
INTERREGNUM 19211925
161
THE SECOND NICARAGUAN CIVIL WAR 19251927
175
THE SANDING CHASE
187
THE LAST BANANA WAR
199
EPILOGUE
213

VERACRUZ
85
THE RULERS OF VERACRUZ
97
CIVILIZING THE TROPICS
109
TURBULENT HISPANIOLA
111
NOTES
221
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
249
INDEX
255
Copyright

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About the author (2002)

Lester D. Langley is the author of numerous books about the relationship of the United States with Latin America and the Caribbean. He also serves as general editor of the University of Georgia Press Series, "The United States and the Americas.

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